Increase in Rate of Building Collapse Embarrassing, Shame to Professionals in Industry, Says ARCON


Bennett Oghifo

The President of Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON), Dipo Ajayi has said that the recent increase in the rate of building collapse in Nigeria has been a source of embarrassment and shame to the professionals in the building industry.

Ajayi stated this in his presentation, ‘Building Collapse: What the Professionals in The Building Industry Should Know’,

at ArchiBuilt 2019, a forum of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), held in Abuja, recently.

He read available research statistics of unfortunate incidences of building collapse, saying about 139 buildings have collapsed between 1974 and 2012. Over 798 lives have been lost during the period. “Out of these, 74 (53.24%) of the reported cases of building collapse have occurred in Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria; about 11 (7.91%) in Abuja, 10 (7.19%) in Oyo State, eight (5.76%) in Ondo State, six (4.32%) in Ogun State, and five (3.69%) in Kano State. Others are Kaduna, Rivers, Kwara, Anambra, Osun, Edo, Enugu, Bornu, Benue and Imo States, which have had reported cases of building collapse less than 2.88/7%.”

Building collapse, he said “is caused by man-made factors which are caused by lapses in the design construction and post construction stage. The existing building laws should be examined and enforced by the relevant professionals and agencies and the standard code of practice of each profession should be applied by each professional in the building industry.”

The increase in the rate of building collapse despite the advancement of technology, Ajayi said “calls for a review of the building design process, construction process till the post construction process.”

He said there are three types of building collapse: Participant Collapse, which was when part of building is affected and small fractions of building fails; progressive collapse: when there will be signs of weakness noticeable either by seeing cracks which become widened with time; and Total or Sudden Collapse, which occurs in a situation where the building falls down suddenly without giving any sign.

He said report has shown that at the incidence of building collapse, the professionals in the building industry tend to lay the blame on each other, instead of tackling the cause of the collapse.

“Everyone should be blamed for the building collapse, from the professionals in the building and approval industry, to the client, to the occupants of that building and down to the government, because we all have roles to play in the successful design, erection and use of a building.

“Building collapse has also been observed to cut across the different categories of building and out of the building categories, the private buildings, also known as the residential buildings are the most affected.

“This can be proved by an analysis of the reported types of buildings that have collapsed over the period in Nigeria.”

Ajayi said “One fundamental principle of building design is that a building should be designed and constructed to meet its owner’s requirements and also satisfy public health, welfare and safety requirement, .such that no part of such building should pose a hazard to its occupants. Any building, whether temporary, permanent or monumental structure must be properly planned, designed, constructed and maintained to realise the desired satisfaction, comfort and safety.”

To minimise the incidence of building collapse in Nigeria, he recommended that there should be a check for policy makers to make sure that specifications are thoroughly followed by contractors. The Town Planning Authorities should maintain and have adequate and competent professionals in the building industry and provide necessary training for design approval, in other words, only architects and engineers should be allowed to approve the relevant drawings in the approval department. The architects should approve architectural drawings, the engineers, their own drawings and so on. A Building Collapse Prevention Unit (BCPU) as a department in all the existing Town Planning Authority in Nigeria should be set up and equipped with the necessary tools and information, to identify houses with weak structures liable to collapse or which have reached a level of collapse and recommend them for demolition, and also make provision for the immediate resettlement of the inhabitants.

He said all professional bodies associated with the building industries in Nigeria such as Council for the Registration of Engineers (COREN), Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Nigerian Institute of Builders (N1OB), Town Planning Registration Council (TOPREC), Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (N1TP), Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) and the Architect Registration Council of Nigeria (ARGON) among others, should be encouraged to research on the causes of building failure and research standardisation of-construction methodologies, including finding a way of stopping quacks and their operations in building industry.

This can be done through the APRN, where the building would have a code number, which would be stored in the cloud. The APRN code once gotten would have the drawings specifications, bill of quantities, names of all the professionals who took part in the design, supervision and construction of the building, including the coordinates of the land, the name of the client and the date of construction. There should be a synergy among the professionals bodies in the building industries with the aim of jointly working together to achieve a common goal.

The public must be willing to alert the government of buildings that ire suspected to be a risk to the lives of the people within the neighbourhood.

The town planning authorities should be allowed by the Governments and the politicians to perform their functions unfettered. This is to ensure that clients do not add extra floors or construct buildings which are different from the approved plans. A typical example was a three-store} building, a hotel, at Ikole Street, Abuja which has been undo construction since 2001 and was later marked for demolition by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) because the owner added an extra floor thereby making it a four-storey building as against the specified three-storey building. When the agency discovered this, the developer was issued a “stop work” on the 12th December 2009. The agency enforced the mechanical removal of the additional floor arid subjected the entire structure to Schmidt Hammer and Structural Integrity Tests on the 29th July 2010 and the structure failed the tests. All the occupants were asked to move out of the building while legal backing for the demolition was sought but never obtained till the collapse. Thirteen lives were lost that day.

There should be regular cheeks of building materials by the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON to ensure that they are of good quality.

Proper attention should be devoted into knowing the nature of the soil where the structure is to be built, right from the design stage. This will determine the type and depth of the foundation, thickness of the foundation concretes and the types, size of the concrete materials to be used. Soil tests should be carried out to determine the presence and extent of magnesium and Aluminum sulphates and this will dictate the type of special cement and other treatment to be used. You may wonder how the University of Lagos, Lagos failed in this regard by using a soil test from an initial approved site located within the University for the present site for its Central Library that partially collapsed earlier this year.

li might also interest you to note that this same Government institution did not subject this project to approval from the relevant Government Agencies in the State which is a total violation of Paragraph 29 of the Nigerian Urban And Regional Planning Act which states that:

“Any existing law exempting Government and its agency involved in development of land from obtaining approval of the relevant Control Department is hereby repealed.” A functional Building Code should be set up and enforced by the relevant authorities. Maintenance should be carried out in building periodically so as to keep the building in good condition always and enable it to have long life span.